May 30, 2005
HALIFAX, N.S. (CNB) - Fisheries and aquaculture ministers and senior officials from six provincial and territorial governments met in Halifax today. They discussed the pending economic and social crises facing communities that depend upon the salmon aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada and the actions required to keep it sustainable.
"It's obvious the salmon farming industry in the Atlantic region, particularly in the Bay of Fundy, is in crisis," said Nova Scotia Minister Chris d'Entremont, who hosted the meeting. "Immediate financial assistance is needed to prevent the collapse of the salmon aquaculture industry.
"The challenges mirror those faced by the agricultural industries, however unlike terrestrial farmers, aquatic farmers do not have access to programs to help them adjust to events beyond their control."
Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Geoff Regan was invited to participate; however, he did not attend.
The Task Force on Fostering a Sustainable Salmon Farming Industry for Atlantic Canada has already identified the immediate needs and provided recommendations for addressing the longer-term challenges facing the industry.
"Fisheries ministers from the Atlantic provinces know this is a critical time for our aquaculture industry," New Brunswick Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister David Alward said. "We have worked collaboratively with the federal government and industry to assess their challenges and develop solutions. I am very disappointed that the federal government has not responded to this urgent request and findings of the task force."
The aquaculture industry has faced a number of significant challenges in recent years, including extreme weather conditions, fish health issues, the effects of the strong Canadian dollar on markets, and misleading information regarding food safety issues.
Trevor Taylor, Minister from Newfoundland and Labrador, said issues affecting the salmon sector impact related industries as well.
"These issues are felt throughout Atlantic Canada," Taylor said. "Aquaculture and all the associated businesses are vital to rural communities. The industry has a tremendous impact on the region."
"Initially, both the federal and provincial governments committed to reviewing the task force report on an urgent basis," d'Entremont said. "We continue to wait for the federal government to respond to this important regional issue. The time to act is now. Financing for this year's crop has not yet been secured but the fish must soon go in the water."
Ministers also discussed the issues of access to, allocation and development of fisheries resources. All agreed that changes must be made to the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers to bring relevance to this forum and the bodies that report to it as the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Framework is rolled out.
MEDIA CONTACT: Danielle McFarlane, Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, 506-444-4218.